DEW Line Passage Chapter Two:

Shingle Point

Shingle Point is the name of an approximately 7-mile long gravel spit that extends off of the Yukon's Arctic Coast a few miles east of the border with the Northwest Territories. It is a favorite summer fishing and whaling camp site for many Inuvialuit who live in Aklavik and Inuvik. As the Mackenzie Delta heats up in the summer and the bugs begin to pester people, the Inuvialuit hanker to head up to the coast for the cool breeze, the whitefish, the herring, and the belugas. Many travel the area in winter and spring hunting grizzly and polar bears. The spit is covered with a wealth of driftwood and is dotted with old tent frames, teepee-shaped smoke houses, and tall towers that assist with navigation. Three main camp areas span the spit: The Point, Middle Camp, and Down the Hill next to the mainland. Each camp site consists of several driftwood log and plywood cabins and new ones are built all the time, with folks hauling building materials from Aklavik (a 4 hour trip by power boat, 3 days by canoe). A fourth fish camp is situated on the spit/delta at the mouth of Running River, from where everyone collects fresh and locally famous "heaven water."
'The Point' camp at Shingle Point
Here's our tent at Shingle Point with the eponymous DEW Line site in the background on the mainland. The DEW Site is situated on 2682 acres of coastal plain between the Blow River and Running River. The Shingle Point DEW Line site ("BAR-2," officially) was an auxilliary DEW site until June 1989 and at the same time the Shingle Point North Warning System Long Range Radar site was activated. Although the site is automated and there is usually no one there, there is a phone always available for emergencies. When someone approaches the buildings they are monitored by video camera and a recording orders "personnel on site" to use the phone to call some distant headquarters (no one knows where) and give their name, social security number, etc. The landing strip at the site is frequently used for various purposes - i.e. wildlife monitors are flown to the site and taken by boat to research areas.

This is a picture of the Shingle Point/BAR-2 site sometime in the late 1960s - early 70s. (The photo is courtesy of Ralph Howell and is borrowed from the comprehensive Larry Wilson's DEW Line Site).


The house in the foreground to the right housed indigenous personnel and was removed sometime in the 1980s.
While visiting the site this summer with a niece of the man who lived in the house, I noticed a sign reading "Asbestos Burial Site."
She noted that her uncle's house had been in the same spot.

Here is one of the older cabins at Shingle Point (with Ryan and Kyle Meyook canoeing in the harbor between the spit and the mainland). The couple that lived in the cabin both passed away a couple years ago of cancer. The couple had lived for many years next to the Stokes Point DEW Line site (50 miles to the East on the Yukon coast) in a house constructed of DEW Line materials. Tests of the house's materials, we were told, showed contamination (unclear on type) and people in the area believe this is the reason for the couple's early deaths.
 

The collapsible woodstove that fits into our tent and consumes driftwood at an uncanny rate.


To the left is a small pile of one of the coast's important resources - 'gugoon' (sp?) - birch bark fire starter.

Corrupting the youth of the area...
Sunset over Shingle Point.

Next: Kay Point, Stokes Point (BAR-B), and Herschel Island

Back: Fairbanks to the Beaufort Sea

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